Cablevision to Launch WGN America In Tribune Media Carriage Pact

Cablevision and Tribune Media have set a carriage agreement that includes the launch of WGN America and the purchase of Tribune’s small stake in the Newsday Holdings publishing group.

The deal also renews Cablevision’s license of Tribune’s Gracenote TV listings and movie data for the Optimum video and VOD services. Tribune has invested significantly in its data assets in the past few years, an element that enhances its clout in negotiations with MVPDs.

Cablevision has bought out Tribune’s 2.8% stake in Newsday Holdings, which includes the Newsday daily newspaper serving Long Island and other assets. Cablevision bought the paper from Tribune for $650 million in 2008.

The pact includes retransmission consent deal for Tribune stations in Cablevision coverage areas: WPIX-TV New York, Hartford, Conn. (WTIC-TV and WCCT-TV) and Philadelphia (WPHL-TV).

The launch of WGN America on Cablevision for the first time fills a notable gap in the channel’s coverage. The distribution in the nation’s largest TV market and among Cablevision’s 3 million overall subscribers is crucial for the channel that Tribune is transforming into a general entertainment network with big investments in original series, such as “Manhattan” and “Salem,” and syndicated acquisitions including “Person of Interest” and “Elementary.”

The deal expands WGN America’s distribution base to 76 million homes, nearly 80% of which are now paying carriage fees for the channel. WGN for decades had been distributed to cable operators for free as a Chicago-based “superstation,” but Tribune has made a big push to convert its distribution pacts to more traditional subscriber-fee based agreements.

“We are pleased to extend our long-standing relationship with Tribune Media on both the programming and media side and look forward to providing more compelling content with the addition of WGN America in 2016,” said Tom Montemagno, exec VP of programming for Cablevision.

“Cablevision is a tremendous distribution partner and we are looking forward to bringing WGN America’s new original dramas such as ‘Underground’ and ‘Outsiders’ … to new audiences in the nation’s No. 1 market,” said Dana Zimmer, president of distribution for Tribune Broadcasting.

(Pictured: “Manhattan”)

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